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Alberta opens COVID-19 vaccines for children Tuesday: Here's what you need to know


Health experts are urging parents to get their children and babies vaccinated for COVID-19 now, ahead of the fall and return to school.

On Friday, the province announced immunizations for Albertans ages six months to five years open on Aug. 2 — the last Canadian jurisdiction to do so.

First dose appointments must be booked through the online vaccine portal or by calling Health Link at 811.

The recommended dose for children ages six months to 11 years is a series of two doses, with an interval of at least eight weeks between each shot.

Children will receive the Moderna Spikevax vaccine, approved by Health Canada two weeks ago.

For those who are immunocompromised, three doses can be administered, with an interval of four to eight weeks between each vaccine appointment. Children on First Nations can access doses at nursing stations or public health clinics on-reserve.

For parents worried about how their child will react, Dr. Tehseen Ladha, pediatrician and University of Alberta assistant professor, says communication and preparation is key.

"Practice at home with a pencil, with a toy," Ladha said. "Show them where it's going to go into their body. Tell them that it will hurt a little bit.

"It's important to be honest so that they know what to expect," Ladha added. "The truth is always better. Otherwise, they become more fearful because they don't know what's happening."

She also recommends bringing a distraction to the appointment, like a book or a toy.

"It's always important to have a reward at the end," Ladha said. "That can really help as well. So something to look forward to, a treat or an activity."

Pharmacists are only allowed to administer vaccines to children aged five years or older, with younger kids being vaccinated by Alberta Health Services nurse or doctor.

"If children end up having COVID, there is a potential for long-term consequences of COVID infection," said Wilson Tat, a pharmacist at PharmaChoice South Boulevard Pharmacy in Edmonton.

"There's something called multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS) that is currently being studied for whereby children who do have COVID are at risk for some long-term consequences."

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, said that while most children are not at a high risk of severe outcomes from the virus, those under five have higher risks than those between five and 11.

“I encourage parents and guardians to speak to a trusted health-care provider for questions about their child's health, including questions about COVID-19 and immunization,” she added in a statement.

While serious illness among children is rare, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization has said the number of children hospitalized for COVID-19 dramatically increased as the Omicron variant spread last winter.

The average monthly rate of young children hospitalized because of COVID-19 was 15.9 per 100,000 children under five in the first three months of 2022. That figure is up from 1.4 per 100,000 during the first two years of the pandemic.

The announcement means approximately 234,000 more Albertans will become eligible for the COVID-19 shot and that as of Tuesday, all Canadian provinces will have begun administering or at least booking appointments for young children.

With files from The Canadian Press Top Stories

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